Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Opening: Cava Grill in Tenleytown

By: Michelle Hershman
Cava Mezze Grill just might take over the world – or at least the DC metro area – and that might not be a bad thing. Managing Partner Brett Schulman, along with Ike Grigoropoulos, Ted Xenohristos, and Dimitri Moshovitis, recently opened the fourth outpost of Cava Grill in Tenleytown.
Think Chipotle, but with a Greek chef who is extremely intent on modernizing the food he grew up with using fresh ingredients that will appeal to a wide range of customers.
While other fast food chains are providing calorie counts for their dishes, Cava Grill knows that today’s generation of consumers is more concerned with clean, transparent food that has a healthy profile. That’s why Cava Grill’s menu board displays all the ingredients and their nutritional elements - gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan, soy free. The menu board also includes messages to let customers know where the food is sourced.

Unlike, the Cava restaurants which can be found in Rockville, Clarendon, and Barrack’s Row, Cava Grill mixes the counter assembly-line takeaway with casual eating space. However, the Cava Grill in Tenleytown goes one step further than its counterparts in Bethesda, Tyson’s Corner and most recently, Columbia Heights.  Tenleytown provides customers with real plates, glasses, and silverware while the other shops use disposable eatware – compostable, environmentally-conscious disposables, of course. For the time-conscious, budget-conscious, and health-conscious customer, Cava Grill in Tenleytown is the perfect balance between fast food and restaurant.

Regardless of which Cava Grill you frequent, you will always find a diverse selection of food. Brett walked me through the process of ordering at Cava Grill. First, start by building a base – a pita, two mini pitas, a salad or a basmati rice bowl. Next, add your dips and spreads – you can pick three which is a good thing because how are you supposed to choose between Crazy Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus? The answer is, you don't.

Then, you have your choice of protein - grilled chicken, grilled meatballs, braised lamb, braised beef, and falafel. If that wasn’t enough, there’s always a seasonal selection. This week’s selection was the spicy lamb slider.

Next, add as many toppings as you want, ranging from cabbage slaw to diced cucumbers to fresh mint and crumbled feta. Finally, finish off your meal with sauce or dressing – I recommend the Yogurt Dill or Spicy Harissa – it reminded me of Greek spaghetti sauce!

If you want a light lunch, you could have the juicy grilled chicken on a salad with feta and cucumber. If you’re looking for a heavy dinner meal, you could have braised lamb with rice. Or you can put together a grilled meatball pita sandwich. There are countless variations. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong. Brett said it usually takes customers about three tries to find their perfect combination. I think I hit my perfect combo the first time with a delicious falafel on soft pita topped with tzatziki sauce, lettuce, cucumber, and a touch of Crazy Feta. It was so good that, after tasting everything that Cava Grill offers, I couldn’t stop myself from eating the entire sandwich.

Here are a few tips: If you’re not a meat fan, choose the falafel. If you are a meat fan, still choose the falafel, it’s that good. I tasted everything on the menu and the falafel was by far and away the stand out. Chef Dimitri mashes half the chickpeas and leaves the rest whole –the falafels are moist and perfectly flavored with cilantro and parsley. I wasn’t crazy about the braised lamb, but if you like meat strongly flavored with turmeric, cayenne and coriander, you’ll love it.  If you like a little kick, try the Crazy Feta. It’s made with jalapeños and onions sautéed in olive oil with feta, and it’s amazing. The Roasted Red Pepper Hummus is also a must try. The roasted pepper flavor really comes through.

If you leave Cava Grill craving more hummus, you can find all the dips in Whole Foods and select local organic markets.

With a managing partner who makes it a priority to know every employee’s name to a company motto that emphasizes “a culture, not a concept”, Cava Grill’s presence in the DC metro area is only growing stronger (watch out for Cava Grill opening soon in Merrifield, VA), and I, for one, hope the Grills and the Crazy Feta are here to stay! 
Cava Mezze Grill on Urbanspoon

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